LGBT rights important for the country

LGBT rights important for the country

Some states are trying to legally establish who gets to use men’s restrooms and who has the bon fides to use women’s restrooms, but this issue is about a lot more than access to gender-based bathrooms. It goes to the essence of our country and our responsibility as a global advocate for democracy.

The democratic form of government is not static. High school civics might have given us the nuts and bolts of democracy, but most high school civics classes forgot to stress that democracy is evolutionary and requires critical thinking that can be challenging and uncomfortable. Policy decisions that were OK years ago are not necessarily appropriate today.

Critical thinking is needed to move us forward. Critical thinking means avoiding trite slogans and stereotypes. Fortunately, we have infrastructure in this country to help us all learn and evolve. Access to free public education was one mechanism that pushed democracy forward. So did free public libraries and state-sponsored universities. The goal was to raise levels of education and understanding nationwide. The goal was an enlightened society. Now we have the Internet that can be a tool for learning. It also is used destructively as a tool for the trite, the trivial and the untrue. Critical thinking is needed to distinguish truth from bias.

A tenet of our democracy is that founding principles can’t apply to some at the exclusion of others. There is no sub-category for qualifying for basic human rights. We no longer have legal precedent for “three-fifths” of a person. Human Rights are universal, not selective. Denied or restricted for one means they are meaningless for all.

This is a learning curve for all of us.

The debate over access to basic human rights is evolutionary, not static. It is advanced through practice, study, understanding and correction. From Native American/ First Nation people, to slaves to women to immigrants to LGBT, the debate and the learning curve evolve.

One critical component to pushing the debate forward is the willingness to learn and correct mistakes. When politicians responded to “Black Lives Matter” with the retort “All Lives Matter,” there was an immediate and justified backlash. Thanks to some thoughtful commentary, the issue was contextualized in the history of America. Since its founding, there has been racial inequality and violence in this country. Changing “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter” essentially glosses over that history. “Black Lives Matter” affirms history and demands we acknowledge it and move forward. “All Lives Matter” ignores history and becomes a trite slogan that denies wrongdoing.

It’s a serious national problem when some states pass laws requiring students to use a bathroom based on the sex on their birth certificate rather than the sex of their identify as transgender.

When a legislator from a southern state says he can’t have a transgender child using the same bathroom in school as his young daughter because it’s unsafe, he is ignoring empirical evidence, succumbing to fear of the unknown and saying basic human rights apply to some but not to others. There is no statistical documentation any alleged danger exists. Like other discriminations, the risk is based on untrue stereotypes and overactive imaginations.

When a transgender student in Williamsville outside of Springfield is assigned a special remote bathroom, it undermines democratic principles. When the school recognizes and corrects its policy, that strengthens democracy.

The alternative to an evolutionary democracy is a dead democracy. There is no surer way to kill democracy than to contend we are an exceptional country with entitlements. That kind of self-agrandizement kills the drive to work hard and evolve. When politicians contend we are an exceptional country, they ignore history and deny us the opportunity to stare at our mistakes with clear eyes and the determination to improve.

Clare Howard




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